According to a study by the IFOP in 2021, nearly one in two French people suffer from digestive disorders. The causes of these disorders are multiple: excessively industrial diet, chronic diseases, development of intolerances, etc. In order to strengthen your digestive system, it is important to understand how it works. Indeed, a large part is based on enzymes, catalysts found in the digestive organs.
- What are digestive enzymes?
- How do digestive enzymes work?
- What are their benefits?
What are digestive enzymes?
Digestive enzymes are the catalysts present in our body that allow the metabolic functions of the body. They are synthesized by the digestive system and are found in saliva, the stomach and the intestines. Digestive enzymes ensure the proper functioning of the body and allow the digestion of each macronutrient.
The activity of the enzymes can vary depending on the pH of the medium and its water content, the temperature, the type of substrate ingested, the polarity of the solvent and the presence or absence of additives in the diet.
How do digestive enzymes work?
Natural digestive enzymes are provided by food and synthesized by the digestive system. These react with food by isolating the elements essential to the body. Each enzyme has an active site that allows it to recognize the substrate(s) it catalyses. Through a process of catabolism, they break the chemical bonds and separate the polymers of a family of macronutrients. In other words, they break down large molecules into small ones. Each enzyme is responsible for breaking down and transforming a food. Here are some examples of enzymes found in the body:
- The salivary glands secrete enzymes called amylases which convert starch into maltose.
- The stomach secretes pepsinogen which turns into pepsin and swaps proteins into peptides.
- The pancreas releases pancreatic enzymes: amylase, lipase (which converts glycerol into fatty acids) and proteases (which isolate amino acids from proteins).
- The wall of the small intestine contains maltase (which transforms maltose into glucose), invertase (sucrose into glucose) and lactase (lactose into glucose and galactose).
- The small intestine contains aminopeptidase and dipeptidase which transform proteins and peptides into amino acids. It also releases ribonuclease and deoxyribonuclease which break down nucleic acids into sugar and nitrogenous bases.
Once broken down, the nutrients are absorbed by the intestinal cells in order to be released into the bloodstream. This allows anabolism, the creation of new molecules essential to the proper functioning of the body.
What are their benefits?
Although digestive enzymes are found in the body, some enzymes are only found in food. This is the case of cellulase, an enzyme produced only by herbivores. Supplementing with digestive enzymes helps to optimize digestion and absorption of macronutrients (carbohydrates, lipids, proteins). Fats are broken down and proteins are better absorbed. Thus, supplementing with digestive enzymes helps preserve muscle mass.
Colon health is maintained as digestive enzymes reduce the toxic load generated by undigested food. In this way, digestive disorders such as heaviness, bloating and intolerances are minimized.
Studies have shown that protease supplementation facilitates muscle healing and reduces soft tissue damage after intense physical exercise.
Certain factors such as aging, poor diet, or certain illnesses can alter the production of digestive enzymes. Complementing each other makes it possible to optimize digestion (especially for the elderly and athletes gaining mass) and to take over from the organs that produce deficient enzymes.
Be careful to respect the dosage and the advice of a qualified professional before any supplementation with digestive enzymes. It is not recommended for children under 12, people on anti-coagulants and pregnant/breastfeeding women to consume it.